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Archive for the ‘mountain climbing’ Category
Adventure Racing is one of the extreme sports that we blog about regularly, and it is best to remember that it is an extreme sport – witness the tragic death of 3 participants in the Raid du Mercantour last weekend, 21st June.
Adventure Racing is an example of how the mixture of terrain and weather conditions can catch out even the most experienced of runners and trekkers.
When I first started writing about Adventure Racing, the first thing that crossed my mind was that, whilst physically and mentally challenging, a long hike through difficult and varying terrain was a bit ‘tame’.
I apologise profusely to all Adventure Racers – and hasten to add that that thought lasted less than 10 minutes as my research broadened.
Since then I have been impressed and amazed at the antics that the sportsmen (and women) get up to, and think that, as an extreme sport, it is probably one of the best.
Don’t shoot me down in flames if you don’t agree… but Adventure Racing is quite something.
For those of you who are not too sure what Adventure Racing is all about, it’s a combination of two or more disciplines, including orienteering (if an orienting map is used) and/or navigation (when non-orienteering maps are used), cross-country running, mountain biking, paddling and climbing and related rope skills. An expedition event can span ten days or more while sprints can be completed in a matter of hours. There is typically no dark period during races, irrespective of length; competitors must choose if or when to rest.
You need to be superfit. You need to have a team you know well and trust. You need to have mental and physical stamina. And you need to know how to do all the above disciplines … and more.
It’s many sports all rolled into one…
The first official Adventure Race was “The Raid Gauloises”, held in New Zealand in 1989, and consisted of 400 miles of mountaineering, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing and rafting over a two week period. The first U.S. race was the Eco Challenge, held in Utah in 1995.
Adventure Racing has become so popular that it has even had a TV series made in its honour – the Odyssey series (trainingsept ):
So why do it? Well, it has been said that Adventure Racing is one’s own personal road to self-discovery as it allows an individual to find his or her limits and push through them because the ‘Race’ often takes participants out of their comfort zone by challenging them with unfamiliar surroundings, often while sleep deprived and physically exhausted.
Anyone can become an Adventure Racer. It’s an easy crossover for cyclist, runners and water sport enthusiasts. Many former tri-athletes, marathon and ultra-marathon competitors looking to add more spice to their chosen fields have taken it up. Some sportsmen found themselves suffering recurring injuries in their sport and so turned to Adventure Racing as an alternative. Aging athletes, on the other hand, discovered that while they can no longer keep up with 20-somethings in a foot race, in a 24+ hour races, they have some competitive advantages!
As with ALL sports, accidents and tragedies DO happen.
This is the RAID season in France and there are many keen participants.
“I’m used to hiking in mountains since I’m a kid, doing a lot of alpinism, skiing, climbing…I’ve discovered adventure racing about 10 years ago and I love it!” says Carine Porret.
“I like adventure racing because I’m a racer, I like the spirit and the race parties!….” says Franck Salgues
“I’m Brasilian living in Miramas,France,in a beautiful winery,I travelled the world for the past 7 years to compete in diferents AR,” says Karina Bacha.
I could give you hundreds of quotes.
“I was born with a compass in the hand! I participate in a lots of orienteering competitions with all my family…my three daughters and my wife are like me: addicted to!….” says Michel Denaix.
But I won’t!
As I said above, this is the Grand Raid season in France, but on Sunday in the Grand Raid du Mercantour in the South of France about 80kms north of Nice, the region suffered adverse weather conditions and three runners died under tragic circumstances. It was the ‘running stage’ of the race and had already been reduced from 100kms to 80 because of the abundance of snow still around. The alarm was raised as a number of competitors had not returned by the 6pm cut-off time, and emergency services were scrambled in an attempt to locate the missing people. All 3 were in their 50’s and it is suspected that they died of hypothermia and hypoglycaemia. Our sympathies go out to their families.
This is not an extreme sport for nothing…
Instead of talking about one extreme sport today, I am going to wax lyrical on an area which supplies just about everything you could possibly want to do on an active summer holiday (we’ve already covered this region for the winter season) – Chatel in the Haute Alpes.
In the whitewater sports they offer canoeing (two-strong team), canyoning (jumping, sliding, daredevil abseiling), hydrospeed or whitewater bodysurfing (a slippery, fast, exhilarating experience), rafting (a 7km ride down the Dranse) and kayaking.
Then there’s bobluging… a 650m descent with 7 bends, an average speed of 7m/sec – definitely a fun-filled thrilling descent. There’s a chairlift to get you back up to the top. The bobluge is open from 28th June to 31st August – weather permitting, and closed over the lunch hour.
And then of course there’s the ubiquitous mountain biking.
The Portes du Soleil has around 650 km of marked mountain bike trails and seemingly endless single track to explore. Using the 24+ lifts that are adapted to carry bikes in the summer, you have access, from Chatel, to almost every resort in the Portes Du Soleil including Morzine, Les Gets and the Swiss resorts of Morgins, Champery and Les Crosset – this really is prime mountain biking country and ideal for mountain biking holidays.
ffredt gives us an idea of what the mountain biking is like:
There are also many downhill mountain biking tracks. Châtel bike park is situated at Pré-la-joux and accessible by Pierre-Longue and Rochassons chair lifts, it consists of 13 trails of all levels of difficulty (including 12 downhill courses) and one “Cross park”.
The 27th and 28th June will see the PassPortes MTB event celebrating its 6th birthday. More than 20,000 people have now participated in this 80km circuit. The event takes place at an altitude of between 1000 and 2250m and covers resorts in France and in Switzerland discovering the Portes du Soleil area and its fabulous landscapes.
You can check out the link here if you’re interested in taking part yourself:
There’s a second competition on the 3rd, 4th and 6th July called the Chatel Mountain Style contest. Professional and amateur riders will compete over the 3 days on the 300 metre long “Face” course. 22 Pro Riders from all over the world have already entred the competition.
There is also a good range of climbing routes available in the area.
Plaine Dranse is an excellent place to learn with more than 26 routes, but its the Essert waterfall which will suit our readers I think. You can abseil and canyon at this 250m landmark, with two semi-wet and wet routes and six 30-50m descents. Plus the Pas de Morgins which offers 50 climbing routes of 10m-40m and with a difficulty level of 3 – 7.
Of course there are artificial climbing walls too…
And then there’s the Fantasticable…
This is for the thrill seekers, the adrenaline junkies of this world. Dizzying speeds and astonishing heights in a ride that is unique in the Alps. Safely harnessed you can fly over the Plaine Dranse hamlet at nearly 100kph, 240m up. The length of the first run is 1,200m and the second one is 1,325 and participants must be no less than 35kg and no more than 120kg.
Watch TheBukakeMaster experience the Fantasticable. I love the superman music and the euphoric laughter!
And, of course, paragliding where you can go for a first tandem flight with a professional.
Our congratulations go to Phil Packer for summiting El Capitan successfully.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, page down or go to ‘extreme personalities’ in our sidebar and read my first article on this courageous and inspirational man, although this quick video from andrew3631 will help:
Having been paralysed when the vehicle he was traveling in, in Iraq, was hit by a rocket, Packer decided that life was not going to stop there, and having run the London Marathon, rowed across the English Channel, amongst other things, his final challenge to raise £1 million pounds for the charity he firmly believes in, ‘Help for Heroes’, was to summit El Capitan’s 3000 vertical feet in Yosemite National Park.
A seemingly impossible challenge one might imagine, seeing that many able-bodied people don’t manage it.
But, pulling himself up with his arms only, Phil Packer has achieved the impossible – he summited El Cap in just 5 days.
He has also raised more than his initial £1 million gaol.
A hero himself and one worth emulating. So don’t whinge about life. Most of us have it really good. Get out there and prove yourself… if only to yourself.
Thank you to itnnews for the video and sorry I haven’t been able to get the one where he goes over the top – refusing help to the end, but it hasn’t yet made it onto YouTube…
A man who sets himself one challenge after another against extraodinary odds, to raise money to help others…June 8, 2009
You might have heard of Major Phil Packer… the man who was paralysed in February last year when the vehicle he was in was hit by a rocket in Iraq. He suffered broken ribs and a crushed lower spine. He was the man who was told he would never walk again and yet he finished the London marathon, albeit painfully slowly, but remember – 18 months before the doctors said he would never get out of a wheelchair.
We like talking about extreme personalities and this is one man who is definitely worth a mention or two. Thanks to AffiliAid for this introductory video:
Phil Packer says: “From the original prognosis that I would never walk again, I have been very lucky and my injuries have improved. I set out to raise £1million by completing a number of challenges including 3 Main Events; Rowing the Channel, walking the London Marathon, and pulling myself up a Mountain. El Capitan is the last event before I concentrate on providing opportunities for people with disabilities and raising the profile of disability sports. I will travel to the USA during the first two weeks in June and with the expertise & support of Andy Kirkpatrick, Ian Parnell and Paul Tatersal, will pull myself up 1800ft in 3 days”.
A quick excerpt of Maj. Phil Packer completing the London Marathon (6MadeInEngland9):
and how he has successfully got others involved in his charity efforts (AffiliAid)
Packer started his 1,800 ft climb up the sheer rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park yesterday, 8th June.
His ascent of El Cap. is being attempted despite the fact that he was told he would never walk again.
Major Packer, who lives in Westminster, London, has said the three-day climb will be his final fundraising campaign before concentrating his efforts on promoting opportunities for disabled people.
Climbing a rock face would be a challenge most of us would balk at but with a characteristic display of courage over disability, Major Packer is determined to conquer the face that many able-bodied people have failed to do.
Pulling yourself up with your arms (the equivalent of doing more than 4,000 push-ups) is a painfully slow way to scale a rock face and though he’s in constant pain since the rocket attack last year, it’s not enough to discourage him from taking up this challenge.
He wants to prove that his disability is no bar to rock climbing even though he’s no fan of its dizzying heights.
Unseasonable rain over the Yosemite Valley won’t make his task any easier though experience suggests this trifling inconvenience won’t interrupt his attempt.
He and his team are climbing to support ‘Help for Heroes’ and to raise awareness of Disabled Climbing Opportunites.
Packer’s live update of his climb states: “Great day, currently at 250 meters. Very tough, arms are tired, but every pull up is one pull up nearer the top. Passed Pitch 6 out of 16. Sleeping on a portaledge tonight.”
Having attempted and completed a marathon, kayaked, sky-dived with the Red Devils and accepted El Cap’s challenge, Major Phil Packer is, in our opinion, the perfect candidate as one of our extreme sports personalities.
To find out more about him, or if you would like to contribute to his fund-raising efforts, please go to: www.philpacker.com
His is a noble cause and I will keep you posted on the climb…
Are you looking for the perfect holiday where you can combine your love of extreme sport with adventure? Well then, the Haute Route is for you. Although not exactly an ‘extreme sport’ being a hike rather than a mountain climb, the fact that it takes 12+ days and is a combination of difficult to very difficult trails, we think makes it fit neatly into our catagory.
You might remember that I did an article on the Haute Route several months ago – right in the middle of our winter and therefore a possible area of interest to any skier or snowboarder.
But now with summer upon us, this route is also available to hikers and climbers. It was, after all, first charted as a summer mountaineering route in the mid-19th century by the Alpine Club (UK). It was first successfully traversed on skies in 1911.
Since the ‘Haute Route’ has become a bit of a generic expression for high level, multi-day, hut-to-hut tours, this route is now known as the “Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route”.
If you are thinking of walking the Haute Route this summer, you will need to know that it is a 180 km (108 mi) hike and is normally done in 15 stages, or 12+ days – this is very flexible.
This is not just a route that you can stroll along admiring the magnificent scenery (although of course you will be doing plenty of that). It is a serious mountain hike involving 3 different standards of hiking:
- gradual ascents or descents along well defined paths or tracks. Suitable for novice walkers.
- considerable ascents and descents over moderate fell type terrain
- and strenuous sometimes exposed routes requiring map reading and navigational skills
You start your hike at Chamonix at 1037m, at the lowest level you will descend to 717m and the highest ascent will be to 2965m – with many days of ups and downs inbetween!
The Haute Route has what is thought to be the greatest collection of four thousand metre peaks in the Alps, it culminates at the foot of the Matterhorn in Zermatt. Mont Blanc will remain in view for much of the hike, but you will also become familiar with other equally impressive peaks such as the Grand Combin, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Pigne d’Arolla, Dent Blanche, and the Weisshorn.
It is a spectacular walk, but strenuous – crossing eleven passes, many over 2,700 m (9000 feet). While some days will be extremely hard work, there will also be leisurely days where you can bathe in and enjoy the beauty surrounding you. However, you must be very fit and well-prepared for this walk as there are a few very long days over difficult rugged, open terrain.
The hiking trails are generally well graded and well defined which makes for great hiking. There are, however, sections that include mud, snow, loose rock, and scree. There may be a section that includes a 70 foot ladder.
Good luck and enjoy. It will be worth it.
Here’s another one for our extreme sports personalities – Ranulph Fiennes, or, more correctly, Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes – a British explorer extroadinaire and the holder of several endurance records. According to the Guinness Book of Records he is the greatest living adventurer.
This is what this extroadinary man has accomplished in his 65 years:
- 1969 Travels the length of the White Nile by hovercraft
- 1970 Traverses Norway’s Jostedalsbreen Glacier
- 1979 to 1982 Travels globe on its polar axis by land transport
- 1992 Discovers lost city of Ubar
- 1993 Attempts to cross the Antarctic unaided
- 2000 On solo walk to North Pole his sleds fall through ice
- 2003 Four months after double heart bypass, he does seven marathons in seven days
- 2005 Attempt on Everest ends when he has a heart attack
- 2007 Climbs north face of Eiger
- 2008 Exhaustion ends a second attempt on Everest
- 2009 Reaches Everest summit
He attempted Everest 3 times. The first time, in 2005, he had a heart attack 300m from the summit. The second time he was forced back at 8,400 metres, suffering from exhaustion. Afterwards he declared: “I won’t be returning to Everest.”
But defeat is simply not in his vocabulary, and despite everything he set off again. Just before 1 a.m. Thursday, 21st May, he became the oldest Briton and first UK pensioner to climb the 8,850 metre peak.
It is hard to believe, after his conquest of Everest and the north face of the Eiger, that this is a man who is morbidly afraid of heights.
Fiennes continues to compete in UK based endurance events and has seen recent success in the Veteran categories of some Mountain marathon races. His training nowadays consists of regular two hour runs around Exmoor.
He’s also an accomplished author. If you’re looking for a REALLY good read, try ‘The Feathermen’ – it’ll keep you spellbound.